You could hardly ask for a more apropos guide to New York club culture than Danny Krivit. Bred in the city’s downtown scene, Danny’s personal history precisely parallels the emergence of club DJing. To attempt to summarize it requires ludicrously long sentences: From the band-focused scene of the ’60s—when as a kid his world included Mingus, Hendrix, and the Young Rascals—to the heady adolescent days of the ’70s—when the rules were being written at underground hotspots like the Gallery and the Loft—through the growing pains of the ’80s—where as Danny Rock he spun alongside Flash and Bambaataa at the Roxy and filled in for his friend Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage—and on to recent years—where his parties (Body & Soul and 718 Sessions) are integral parts of a fully grown global dance culture—Danny, like a hip Zelig, has been at the epicenter.
His father owned a Greenwich Village hot spot called the 9th Circle where Danny played musical selector and was steeped in counterculture from an early age. In 1975, the elder Krivit branched out and opened a dance club on Hudson Street in Tribeca known as Ones, a hustle hot spot that regularly drew movie scouts looking for dance-scene extras. By this time, Danny’s passion for music and record collecting was in full bloom, and the enthusiastic response he got during his two-year residency as Ones’ sole spinner confirmed he was on the right path.
At the dawn of the ’80s, as the flame of disco flared and faded, Danny began to specialize in a particular arcane musical art—the re-edit. In its basic form, the re-edit consists of a simple rearrangement of an existing piece of music, but like many things, the art lies in how it’s done. With the rare ability to hear music from the perspective of the most dedicated dancer combined with the technical know-how of a lifelong DJ, Krivit was able to coax incredible performances out of records whose potential was only hinted at in the original. When you hear a song and wish that cool part was a little longer, or at the front of the song instead of buried behind three cheesy choruses, you are tapping into the same consciousness that Danny used to create his legendary edits.
Perhaps the defining mark of a Danny Krivit edit is his respectful and passionate treatment of the original material. It is a spirit that combines the reverence and spirituality of David Mancuso’s nights at the Loft with the knack for drama and energy of Larry Levan’s Paradise Garage performances. Many of Krivit’s personal edits were pressed on the New York City gray market and subsequently became essential material for working DJs, in many cases supplanting the original recordings on the strength of their superior arrangements. The extent of his work is just beginning to be recognized, as these edits were almost always uncredited, appropriate for a fellow who always put the song first and kept his ego well in the background.
When Krivit and fellow heavyweights François Kevorkian and Joe Claussell founded Body & Soul in 1996, it was not surprising that the weekly party became world-renowned for representing the essence of this same spirit. Krivit continues to channel this vibe for the faithful at events around the world, nights that anyone interested in dance culture should experience. Here he flips through twelve selections from his vast library and gives Wax Poetics a look.
Do you consider yourself primarily a DJ? Where do you think you’ve made your mark in music?
Danny Krivit: I wouldn’t say I’m just a DJ, but I’ve been DJing for thirty-two years. Right up next to that is editor. I consider myself an accomplished editor; that’s what I’ve made a reputation behind. There’s plenty of editors, but there are very few who’ve made a name as an editor. Most of them are way in the past, they had their moment, and most of them aren’t still doing it. Also their styles are different, more representative of just that period that they were active in. People like the Latin Rascals, Omar Santana, Chep Nunez, Gail “Sky” King. Then you have the people at the very beginning, really just DJs doing edits for themselves. Lesser known but certainly at the head of them is Walter Gibbons. François [Kevorkian], Frankie Knuckles, Keith Dumpson. Most of the DJs from that period had a reel-to-reel that they used [to play special homemade edits].
My editing is subtle, and has to do with arrangement. I consider this separate from a remixer, who, in the past, was someone who had all the tracks available and could adjust or rearrange things but with complete flexibility—really revamp it. Nowadays, it goes further than that, sometimes it’s just like, “Let’s throw it all out,” and who knows if you’re even going to use one little bit of what was there before. Sometimes, I don’t know what the reference point is to the original recording. I don’t call that remixing; it’s a different production. In the past, when a remixer would do that, they would get credit for postproduction. You can’t really call it “remixing” anymore; where’s the original record? On the other hand, an editor uses the same production, as is, and it’s just about rearranging. You could be using the break, extending it and chopping it in a certain way, but that little bit you’re using over and over again was in the original, just the way it is. That’s the difference. The other thing is that over my whole career as an editor, almost everything I’ve picked has been my choice. It’s not someone coming to me saying, “I know you don’t like it, but it’s good money.” When I listen to a song, I either feel something or I don’t. When I like a record, I rearrange it just the littlest bit that it can stand, although, sometimes, it can stand a lot of rearrangement. In any case, I like it to begin with or I wouldn’t touch it. A lot of editors don’t really understand that; they come at it from a different angle, like, “I don’t like this record, but I’m going to make something out of it.”
“Get On the Good Foot” (Polydor promo, 1971)
Krivit: I lived on Twelfth Street. The guy who lived above me, Jerry Schoenbaum, was vice president of Polydor—and good friends with my father. He knew I was just starting out DJing and had invited me to come down to the Polydor building and get some records. I took my time getting up there, and when I finally did—by that time, Polydor didn’t really have any good artists; James Brown was about it. So this guy used to have the whole floor as his office, and James Brown had a little office in the back, but by the time I got up there, they basically had reversed it. He had to give up the whole floor to James Brown for his productions and just take this little office for himself. He was a little embarrassed, like, “If you had just come up here a few months ago, this all was mine... But let me show you around what used to be my office; maybe we’ll see James Brown.” Now understand, I was a fanatic at the time. Finally, he says, “Ah, there’s James!” We walk over, and he introduces me as a DJ who loved his stuff. James says, “A DJ? You gotta give him my new jam!” And he hands me Get On the Good Foot and a Lyn Collins promo that didn’t come out till months later [the Think LP]. I’m looking at this record, just awed. Then, after a moment, I realize he’s wearing the same suit that’s in the picture right there before my eyes! That image stuck with me.
The big thing about that experience was that I had been a fan. I had all his records on King. After that, I was getting these red-label Polydors with his face on it, so I was used to all that. Now, I got this white label that I’d never seen before, and it hit me that, “I’m a DJ; this is a promotional copy.” It really made me feel like I’d crossed a line, that I was in the business. Before, it was like I had this great hobby, but now I was in the business.
“Girl You Need a Change of Mind” (Tamla, 1972)
Krivit: This record was one of the first records that made me think this is a club mix or extended mix, a “big room” sounding record as opposed to a funky/“get down” kind of record. This was probably my second real promo. Tamla was another label I was used to seeing in color, so the black-and-white promo label really struck me. This was a theme song for me over the years. It never really went away. This was a very key song at the Paradise Garage. It was used to test the sound system, to make sure records didn’t feed back, to see how the highs were, or if an album cut could still pump. Larry [Levan] would make this cut sound good; then he knew the system was really pumping, and anything else he played would sound good too.
I saw Eddie Kendricks perform this live at Madison Square Garden. He was second billing to Sly and the Family Stone. It was Sly’s wedding onstage. Eddie Kendricks was just the opening act, but I really just came there for him.
Did he play it the way it was orchestrated on the record?
He tried, it was still him, but Motown in general had a little bit of a weakness when it came to club music. They had a little bit of that Las Vegas, lounge kind of sound. It was all in the production, especially Norman Whitfield’s stuff. So yeah, I was a little disappointed.
Did you ever do an edit of this?
There was an edit done of this, just before I started editing. I really liked it, except I thought it got a little busy in the middle. So I never actually did it, though I was thinking about it; I just used that one. It’s got a great extended outro. It was a yellow [label] 12-inch, very long. [The original version] was typical of a lot of records: the producer deliberately made the record climax, and then it just fades out. It’s supposed to fade out with energy. But on a dance floor where people love the record, they’ll just look at the DJ like, “Why’d you fade it out?” This, [Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes’] “The Love I Lost,” there’s a bunch of records like that. So this guy edited the ending really well: it wasn’t an easy thing to do, but he extended the outro a couple minutes where it was really a few seconds on the record. It really helped a lot.
“Life on Mars” (Philadelphia International, 1976)
Krivit: I used go to the record store all the time and impulse-buy based on the jackets. I saw this cover and just got lost in this picture. I had no idea who or what it was, I just had a feeling that this was a record I was going to like. Back then, I would not only go to the store and get lost in the picture and buy the record, but I’d go home and listen to it. And the deepness of the sound would make me look deeper into the record, just get lost in it and imagine... With this LP, as I listened to the rest of the album, I thought it was all good, but then when I heard this song [“Life On Mars”], it really blew me away. Dexter Wansel had this way of mixing his synthesizer with the drums so it would just make this smooth hit, really thick but together. You couldn’t separate them. It was a trademark sound; all his stuff had it, and after this, whenever I’d see something with his name on it, I’d be like, “Ooh, let me check this out.”
Was this ever issued on 12-inch before this re-issue?
It’s very possible, but I haven’t seen it. I’m still learning about some of these radio/disco 12-inches that were given out at the time and were really limited. When I used to go to record companies every week, one of the key stops wasn’t in Manhattan; it was all the way out in Queens, which was kind of a trek and hard to get to. But there were guys like me who were out there every week, and I got to know them. The thing was, if you didn’t go that week, you know you’d suffer, and somebody would rub your nose in it: “You didn’t go last week?! You didn’t get...?” whatever it was. And when we’d go there, it wouldn’t be one or two records; it would be a stack. Albums, really limited promo 12-inches. This next record is a good example of that. If I wasn’t there that day, I wouldn’t’ve gotten it.
“Love Brought Me Back” (CBS, 1978)
This was soul stalwart Rogers’s biggest chart success, getting to number twenty on the Billboard R&B charts in 1978. The big-budget Columbia production allowed the band to include such topflight session musicians as Keni Burke on bass, James Gadson on drums, and Patrice Rushen on keys. Maxayn Lewis and Deniece Williams also sing backing vocals.
Krivit: I played this recently with Joe [Claussell], and he’s someone who’s very hard to stump. He had Dance Tracks [famous East Village record store run by Claussell] over the years. I’ve got fifty thousand records; he probably has seventy-five [thousand]. He knew he didn’t have this, and it was killing him. I don’t see this around. I’m sure people have sold it, whatever, but you just don’t see it. It’s rare. There’re a lot of 12-inches like this. One, very well known, is “Family” by Hubert Laws. People want it, and [if they have it], they don’t give it up. I know Joe had one, and it got stolen or lost in the airport or something. If you see that, it’s probably $400.
Crown Heights Affair
“Say a Prayer for Two” (De-Lite, 1978)
This single, drawn from the 1978 LP Dreamworld, adds about half a minute to the album version in the form of a flangey bass interlude. The 12-inch mix also adds a three-bar tape-edited drum break and a dramatic stop-start intro. It’s a funky and soulful disco tune with a horn line reminiscent of De-Lite labelmates Kool and the Gang. Like K&TG, the Crown Heights Affair was a fully self-contained band, horn section and all.
Krivit: Steve D’Aquisto did a reissue series on Elektra in the mid-’80s that he included this on. I usually play that pressing, because I like the mastering, and the quality is great; they’re pressed at 45 rpm. This is an original; I usually keep this one in storage! The intro is great. There’s a lot in this that’s just special when it’s loud. I liked this label a lot back then; at this time, I was already in a record pool, but I was still individually going around to all the record companies. Certain companies were powerful all the way through; certain ones had their moments. Just like the spot in Queens, you really felt you had to go there every week and get their releases. And if you missed a week, you suffered, because you’d never get that record again. As another example of that, there’s this next record, one of my rarest.
“The More I Get the More I Want” (Prelude, 1977)
Made famous when Teddy Pendergrass recorded his version for Philadelphia International, this was composed by McFadden/Whitehead and keyboardist Victor Carstarphen. The song begins with a long drum and percussion break punctuated with flashes of string stabs, bass, and guitar added sixteen measures in. After the body of the song, highlighted by Johnson’s charismatic vocal performance, the outro fades and fades until all you’re left with are those majestic string stabs.
Krivit: It’s one of the first Prelude 12-inches. This was probably just as François [Kevorkian] was coming to the label, before everything on the label started being mixed by him. This was remixed by Rafael Charres, and it’s a very dramatic, excellent remix. At that time, I was really taken with [remixers] Tom Moulton, Walter Gibbons, and Richie Rivera. But Rafael Charez, to this day, if I see something I don’t know with his name on it, I have to get it. But, somehow, I missed this one; I couldn’t get it at the label. It took me about seven years to find another copy. François didn’t even get this until a few years ago! It took him that long. Then after he told Joe [Claussell] about it, Joe walks in to the club the next week with a copy and says, “Yeah, I found it on the street for fifty cents.” But, in spite of that story, it’s a very rare record. It’s actually one-sided; the other side is a different song and artist. As you can tell from the writing on the label, I got this from a guy named Larry Francis, who used to work for MCA. I traded a bunch of stuff for it: a lot of records, some pot...
Were these long intros made with blending in mind?
No. They were made with excitement in mind. Especially someone like [Rafael Charez]. There were other mixers who thought about blending, who were busy keeping everything in four- and eight-[bar patterns] and straightening things out. Rick Gianatos was one, and John Luongo. Luongo took Sly and the Family Stone and remixed the whole Greatest Hits album and threw the band out. He just used these tired musicians and made a disco crap record. He did do some good disco records, but I always wondered what the original sounded like, ’cause he just threw stuff out.
They were blending all throughout the ’70s, although in the first years of the ’70s, it was rare. It was usually an eight- or sixteen-beat blend, and when you heard a sixteen-beat blend, you’d notice it. There’s a lot of memory involved, knowing where the record sped up or slowed down, and a lot of physical mixing to get it to work, because often records were really off-time. Those who had a delicate touch and knew the record inside and out could do it. People who didn’t have that memory or thought they could just wing it, you would hear this fighting [the mix], a train wreck kind of thing. By the mid-’70s, there were quite a few professional DJs who had practiced and were really pretty good. Certainly, by the end of the ’70s, it was really popular. By the time of the ’78, ’79 disco boom, there were a lot of records being produced that were not difficult to mix; they were just straight records [rhythmically].
Around this time, I had been DJing a number of years, and I went to see Jellybean at Harrah’s. I was coming from my gig, and I had gone through this ordeal to pack up all my records and get down there. It was the end of the night, and I’m waiting for him to come out with his records. He comes out in a suit, all immaculate, and he’s got a little briefcase! A tiny briefcase, and I’m like, “Where are all your records?” And I realized, after hearing him a few times during that period, that there were a ton of fifteen-minute records out, and he was playing a circuit of clubs where those were hit records. It was very easy to just play a lot of long records, and you wouldn’t have to bring that many. That was your night!
How was your approach different?
I didn’t know how not to bring too many records! I was always bringing a crate or two of records! It was like, “This is all I have, but if I had more, I would bring more!” The situation with Jellybean was really my first exposure to somebody just focusing on one sound. I was all over the place. I would play a variety. I was funky, disco, a little bit of rock; I just played everything. So I brought a lot of records!
“We’re On Our Way Home” (CBS, 1978)
This single is drawn from the Detroit band’s second LP, Journey to the Light. Brainstorm included several notable talents in the band, including drummer Renell Gonsalves, the son of Ellington saxophonist Paul Gonsalves. Early in her career, Brainstorm’s lead singer, Belita Woods, released two gorgeous singles on Detroit label Moira Records (also home to the Fabulous Counts). A one-off single on Epic, “I Just Love You,” followed in 1973 before she joined Brainstorm.
Krivit: This is another one I got out there in Queens. I love this song. I used to hear it in the Loft; it was a song that made me get out on the floor in ’78 or ’79. It’s been reissued a lot, but this is the original promo.
On the album it’s two separate parts, right?
Right. This is part one and two together, which back then was wow! And the sound was incredibly better than the album. That was the thing—these things were really pressed so much better. I was a novice back then. Sometimes, I didn’t know what it was that made these better, but in this case, I knew both the album and the 12-inch [version], so I could tell that one sounded fantastic. Sometimes, you didn’t have the two things to, so you knew it sounded good, but you didn’t know how much they did to it. This song has a positive message, and it has this break at the end that I just lived for. I was just waiting for that part of the song. Also [Woods] singing. I liked anything Brainstorm did, because she was so soulful. To hear that break at the Loft... Certain records just lit up the Loft at night. Through those Klipschorn [speakers], a record like this would just shine. It was almost like you were in the studio listening to the two-inch [master tape].
Did it carry through on other systems?
Oh, it carried through, but the thing was that once you heard these records on that great sound system, even if you were listening to it on a little radio, you remembered it that way. That’s the only way you knew it. And if you never heard it [at the Loft], then you’d never understand it. I mean, you’d like it; it’s a good song; it probably sounded good. But once you heard it that way, it never left you. After hearing these great songs at the Loft or the Garage, I’d go to the roller rink. Fortunately, the Roxy had a Richard Long sound system, and, I think, next to the Garage, it was the best system, better than Studio 54. Larry [Levan] used to come there and skate. It was just a really superb room for sound, and it was great to hear these things there. But I would play at other roller rinks where the sound system sucked! I’d play these records after hearing them in the Garage, and I tried to carry my feeling of the record across and make people understand it, but it was a stretch. I mean, you just didn’t hear all of the sounds on the record.
“My Man Is On His Way” (All Platinum, 1978)
Krivit: This is another 12-inch that was very rare. I just happened to be in the company and got it. I don’t know which is more unusual, the picture cover or the white-label promo! It’s more of a Gallery record.
How would you characterize the Gallery sound as opposed to the Loft or the Garage?
Well, they were three distinct things. Both the Garage and the Gallery were pretty much gay [clubs]. The Loft had that element, but there was less emphasis on it. There just happened to be gay guys in there. It wasn’t stressed, and [David Mancuso’s] music didn’t lean that way either. He just happened to be playing good music at the time, and a lot of it came to be [associated] with that. Mancuso would play things like [War’s] “City Country City” and stuff like that, which the other places might play, but this was the Big Record at the Loft [as opposed to a warm-up record at other spots]. The Gallery was much more about high-energy divas. Female vocals. Nicky [Siano, the Gallery’s resident DJ] was very into the Supremes and stuff like that. He liked funky stuff too, but if you’re talking about the peak records and what the trend was, it was mostly about divas. The Garage loved that stuff too, but it was a much bigger sound, and it focused on “sound” records. [Levan] certainly played all the diva records, but he also focused a lot on funky instrumentals. Not funky like Parliament funky, but funky disco records. Things like...
“Galaxy” (MCA, 1977)
Krivit: I was really into “Galaxy” when it came out. I would play it at outdoor events on great sound systems and pump it. When disco was coming in, I was still playing “Galaxy,” and people would come up to me like, “What are you playing?” They wouldn’t even call it funk; they had no description for it. I remember somebody saying, “What do you call this music?” And I said, “Good?”
I was actually hurting a little in the disco boom, because I was a little funky, and I liked all this Loft/Garage-style stuff, and people were so into the really popular straightahead disco. But I have a strong memory of the first time I went to the Garage after getting all this crap for playing “Galaxy.” It was the first record I heard when I walked in. The room was full of people sweating, and it was just pumping. It was just simple: this record was on the money. A few times in my career, this record reassured me: “Why am I questioning what I’m into? This is right.”
Did people play the album version or the 12-inch version? Because the album has that coda in it [where the beat fades and returns] that the twelve doesn’t have.
Everyone played the 12-inch version. The album version was after-the-fact. After you got used to playing the 12-inch version, you said, “Well, let me see what I can do differently.” Remember, this was really in the disco times, so the idea of a record fading out and coming back [as the LP version does] was taboo. People who did that had a place, like the Loft or the Garage, where they excelled at things like that. But that was an underground club, completely controlled by the DJ, and nobody was going to tell him, “What are you doing?” In the normal world, at all these popular clubs, you’d do that and you were really going out on a limb. Maybe you’d want to use that limb for another thing and not that record! So it wasn’t that common [to hear the album version]. People were very locked into playing straightahead.
When David [Mancuso] started, he wasn’t really beat mixing, but he was blending. I mean, he had a mixer, but he didn’t have a monitor. He had his booth up a little ways from the floor, and the music low enough that you were up in this closed booth, and you could hear the grooves from the record [being cued]. He could hear where the break was; he’d see the grooves. He’d be pulling it back, he’d see that there’s only a few seconds left, and he’d kinda feel the timing of the record and then do the blend. It was that kind of haphazard thing. That was very common the first few years of the ’70s. As the ’70s went on, and more people were beat mixing, David’s style became unique. At the Garage, in the beginning, Larry Levan was a mixaholic—even though people got used to hearing him not mix towards the end. He was making long mixes, train wrecks even. [laughs] Actually, I thought he was very good. But he made good mixes, bad mixes, it was all mixing, no letting a record stop. In fact, if you heard something like that, it would be something to talk about: “Ooh, he did this,” and it was a terrible moment.
“Solar Flight (Opus 1)” (Motown, 1977)
Multi-instrumentalist Andre Lewis released three LPs for Motown under the pseudonym Mandré. The “Masked Music Man,” as he portrayed himself, collaborated here with his wife Maxayn Lewis and Johnny “Guitar” Watson.
Krivit: This is an example of an extreme taste. This was one that never came out on 12-inch, so I played the album cut. I used to go to Ones after-hours when it was closed. I had the keys, and I would go in, turn the sound system on, put a chair in the middle of the floor, and put this on. It was like having a giant set of headphones, and I’d just be in heaven. I would never do that now. It just shows where my head was at then: I was listening to songs, like, fifty times in a row. I had nothing but time. [Today] for me to listen to a record several times would really say a lot about that record. But Mandré was a record that I would play to death, play it for all my friends. They liked it, but none of them really got it the way I did. I loved this record.
Did you play it out?
Well, that was the problem. I did play it out. I tried to pick a time when people were really listening or a time when it didn’t matter as much. But almost every time I played it, I had a problem. I would really risk my job because I was playing this record. The owner or someone who mattered would inevitably come over and say, “What are you doing? This is something to play at home. Don’t let me tell you again.” People like Larry or David were very fortunate to have their own environment where they could experiment, but I had to support myself with a lot of jobs, and so I had to put this away.
Towards the end of the ’90s, though, I was pulling this out again, and not only was it a big record, it was a huge record—especially in Japan. It was like it had always been this huge classic—which it wasn’t. It was a classic in my mind but not on the dance floor! It was just kind of an example of all the records I bought for myself that I believed in that finally had a place. To this day, I still love to pull out these things that never got the opportunity then but should’ve. People are searching for records that haven’t been burned out.
Back then, a lot of the songs that are so played-out now were new, and I would play things over and over again in my house. I got a new record and I would play it all day, play it all week. I had an unbelievable sound system in my room. I don’t know how the neighbors dealt with it! I bought this sound system from this place called the Dom, it was below the Electric Circus on St. Mark’s Place. It had these huge Altec-Lansing speakers. They were home models, but they were huge; they’d cover up part of the window in my room! One time, I had been playing this record over and over in my room, and my neighbors, a young couple, stopped me in the elevator. “We like music,” they said, “but you’re kind of stuck on this one record, [First Choice’s] ‘Doctor Love,’ and we’re wondering if you could give it a break.” By the time they stopped me, I was pretty much over this record and on to the next, so it was easy for me to say “sure.” One of the walls of my room was part of their hallway or something, and I could hear them once in a while. About six months later, as I’m playing records for my friends and there’s a little silence, we hear in the background “Doctor Love...” and they’re pumping it in their house! I could hear them singing along to the record. Apparently, I’d brainwashed them into liking this record. I wasn’t playing it, so I guess they missed it!
“Love’s Got Me” (David Morales Mix) (10 Records, 1990)
From the London group’s 1990 LP, Look How Long, it’s one of their last singles before the group split up. This barely got a foothold on the R&B charts before settling into obscurity.
Krivit: It’s another extreme mix, not something you’re expecting. I enjoy records that have a sound that takes you somewhere. I like a lot of David Morales’s stuff, not all of it—he’s done a lot of records. I thought this was one of Loose Ends’ best records, and they had a few really good ones. But in this case, I thought it was his mix that made it. I played this in Japan and a lot of people were surprised, because this version had kind of gone by them; they didn’t remember it. People were amazed at how big and powerful it was in the club. It’s kind of epic-sounding.
Do you play a lot of mid-tempo stuff like this in your sets?
All across the board. I try to build people up, bring them down. Peaks and valleys. Get them tired, let them catch their breath. I like to play as long as I can, go lots of places in the course of the night. In Sapporo, Japan, I played an eighteen-and-a-half hour set. It was great.
You bring enough records to Japan to cover that?
I bring too many! First of all, I have two enormous CD books. One of them is all classics. That one book of classics I’ve condensed down so that it represents about seventeen crates of classics. If I only had that to play from, I’d have enough. I also bring a few crates of records and another couple handfuls of CDs, so I have plenty of things to play. But I never have enough! I want to have every record that’s in my mind! Whenever I get the rush to play something and I don’t have it, it hurts me. I want to play what I really feel I want to play. Certainly, in those eighteen and a half hours, there were a lot of things I didn’t even get to.
Do you feel comfortable working with CDs at this point?
At this point, very comfortable. Whereas in the beginning, François was very into CDs, and it was a little intimidating for me. I remember whenever I had something that was only on CD, I’d look at François like, “Could you mix this for me?” I appreciate CDs for a lot of things they can do: I can play a rare record without destroying the vinyl, for example. Every time I play it, it sounds perfect, new. I would prefer to play the vinyl. The vinyl sounds better, but in many situations, it isn’t practical for me. Junior Vasquez, Larry Levan, Timmy Regisford—these people have their own clubs. Their collection of records is sitting behind them, and they don’t have to share the booth with anyone else. Whenever they get a new record, they can put it there. Everything they own is there. When they get the rush, especially if it’s set up nicely, they can just go right to the record and play it. Having everything in a CD book—though it’s great—is very uninspiring compared to seeing all your records in front of you. It’s these pictures [gestures to an LP cover], people don’t give enough credit to the art on the records. The smaller you make it, the less I respond. The size of this picture, when I’m going through a crate, just a flash of it is going to take me places I didn’t realize—to other records or whatever. It might take me somewhere I never thought of going... It gets my mind going. Sometimes, I can look at these books of CDs and not be inspired at all. For the same reason I used to go to record stores and be inspired to buy these records I would see on the wall, now I go into CD stores, and I’m uninspired. I do very little impulse buying, because there’s no covers that are going to make me buy that CD.
“Deeper” (Warner Brothers, 1977)
Krivit: This is a difficult record to find. I did an edit of this song that used elements of the instrumental, only available on this promo. When I used to go to these companies to get records, it wasn’t like just anybody could go up there; you had to be playing somewhere, and they had to know you. At Warner Brothers, there used to be this girl, Jackie Thomas, I think it was. She used to personally sign every [promo] record. I have records that I acquired from another DJ for example, and they’re signed to him. She had nice handwriting; it was always written beautifully. It kind of made you not want to get rid of the record! On the other side of that, speaking of writing on records, my friend David DePino used to DJ at the Garage, and I’d help him out with records all the time. He was always asking me to point him out the good stuff, so he didn’t waste time. You know, “Just tell me which ones are good.” So I’d tell him what I thought, and he’d take the pen and just [mark up the record]. I’d be like, [deadpan] “All right. That just made it worthless...” To me, though it may’ve been a new record, it was already a rare promo-only thing. He doesn’t think that way; he’s not a record collector.
You consider yourself a collector, I guess.
You can’t move in my apartment. I’m a chronic collector. Some records that are classics I have thirty copies of. Every time I saw it cheap, I’d think, “How can I turn away from this?”
I used to go to this flea market religiously. There was one guy who I always bought stuff off, a dollar a record. One day he tells me, “I got a lot of good stuff today, a whole collection.” As I’m looking through I began to realize that they were Larry Levan’s records. When he went through bad times, his collection got split up. The record that really stopped me in my tracks was a special acetate of Syreeta’s “Can’t Shake Your Love” [originally on Motown from 1981]. This was a unique mix that only Larry had, with an a cappella intro. It was given to him personally. So, I took it home, but it was basically unplayable. It was really trashed, like somebody had stepped on it. But this was such a special record that I transferred it to the reel-to-reel, using a quarter to keep the needle from skipping. I then meticulously edited out all the pops, using a clean copy of the regular version for some parts. When I saw Larry again and told him what I’d found, he got really excited and insisted I give him back the acetate. I told him to calm down, he could have it back, but there was good and bad news: “The bad news is that your acetate is unplayable. The good news is that I cleaned it up and it’s being re-pressed.” And that rescued version is the one that most people play today.